Healthy Habits for the Whole Family

Healthy habits for the whole family

Getting outdoors and being active is key to a healthy lifestyle.

Are you looking to make this the healthiest and happiest year ever for you and your family? Don’t just rely on New Year’s resolutions to help you make changes. Instead, keep bringing fresh new healthy habits into your life with each season.

Winter: Get outdoors and get healthy!

Staying active throughout the winter months can feel challenging, but in reality, there are lots of options! Dressing warmly for weather conditions and getting outdoors for a day of sledding, skating or skiing is wonderful for our physical health. Being active is also a big boost to our mental health.

If you get tired of the cold, try heading to your local pool for a family swim. It is great to keep your children’s swimming skills strong over the winter, and help them prepare for the summertime. Plus, swimming together is a fun, family activity that will help moms and dads stay fit too.

Spring: Family fun on two wheels

When the snow thaws and the days get longer, we are all drawn to getting outside and enjoying the sunshine. This is the perfect time of year to start adding more cycling into your family’s routine.

There are bikes for every age and teaching your children about bike safety will help increase their confidence. Leave the car at home more often for local outings, and ride together as a family instead. Make sure everyone’s bikes are in good repair and that their helmets fit properly. Adults and older children can add a pannier or basket to their bikes to help run errands like a trip to the local market, or to carry essentials like snacks on a family day out to the park.

Try riding bikes to the dentist, doctor, piano lessons and other errands. You will soon get in the habit and may be surprised at how fun, easy and convenient it is. Cycling is an activity that can help your family bond, increase your sense of adventure and help to build your children’s confidence and feeling of accomplishment. Cycling is also a money-saver as it can help cut down on transit or fuel costs.

Summer: A season of fresh flavours

Summer is the perfect time to serve fruits and veggies more often. Have you heard that fruits and vegetables should fill half our plate? It is so easy to meet this recommendation in the summertime, when all of our delicious, local produce is in season. Try taking the kids to a farmer’s market. Little ones are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they help choose the produce and help with preparation. Food aversions are often more about control than taste. Let your kids have some of the control, and they may surprise you with how open they are to new flavours and textures.

I recommend that you start with foods and flavours that your kids enjoy and branch out from there. A smoothie is often a hit with cautious kids. Here are my tips for making them extra popular with your little ones:

  • When you’re choosing bananas, make sure to select the sweet, brown spotty ones. They taste better and they are rich in antioxidants
  • Using frozen fruit is quick and easy
  • Pitted dates or date paste provides an easy way to add sweetness, fiber, potassium and magnesium.
  • Make the smoothies into popsicles by freezing them.

Autumn: Healthy fall baking 

Those crisp autumn days are the perfect time of year to get out exploring. Enjoy family hikes at local trails and parks, or head to a nearby farm to go apple picking.

It is also a good time of year to start making some healthier changes in your baking. One of the easiest swaps to start with, is replacing half the oil in muffin and cake recipes with applesauce. Your baked goods will be just as moist and delicious, but they will also be extra healthy and full of fibre.

If you want to try dairy-free baking, just substitute equal quantities of soy or almond milk in your recipes. Canned coconut milk is a perfect substitute for cream.

Cutting back on sugar is also easy. You can often cut out a third of the sugar from a baking recipe without missing it. You can also experiment with dates as a healthy and tasty sweetener.

Here’s a simple formula for making healthy back-to-school lunches for your kids: one main course (a sandwich or a hot meal in a thermos), one healthy snack (apple slices, carrot sticks with hummus, grapes) and one treat snack (cookies, muffins or cake; homemade if possible!) This formula will help your kids get used to healthy portions and balanced meals.

Taking a seasonal approach can also help you and your family to make positive lifestyle changes without the pressure of New Year’s resolutions. Whatever the weather, there are always fun ways for everyone to be active and healthy all year round.

Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD

Pamela Fergusson is a Registered Dietician with a PhD in nutrition with a private practice in Toronto. She brings a love of nutrition, wellness and fitness to her blogging. She loves to cook and bake with her four children, teach them about food and nutrition through shopping for and preparing colourful, healthy family meals together. Pamela is also a runner and speed walker and has completed six half and full marathons.

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